Maverick of Top Gun may have a need for speed, but Volvo drivers will not be able to ride on the highway to the danger zone. Volvo Cars plans to impose a top speed limit of 180 kph on all of its vehicles by 2020. The company hopes that this limitation will reduce the number of speeding-related accidents.
According to the United States National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 25% of all traffic fatalities in the United States in 2017 were caused by speeding. Volvo hopes that if they limit their vehicle’s speed limit to 180 kph (roughly 112 mph), they can eliminate speeding fatalities and injuries. Håkan Samuelsson, President and Chief Executive of Volvo Cars, remarked, “And while a speed limitation is not a cure-all, it’s worth doing if we can even save one life.” The speed limit is part of Volvo’s “gaps toward zero” campaign to reduce the number of accidents involving Volvo vehicles.
Volvo also plans on researching ways to influence driving behavior. They have considered implementing “smart speed control” and geofencing around areas like school zones and hospitals. Volvo would also like to reduce the number of accidents caused by intoxication and distracted driving. They will present their solutions to these issues at a safety conference in Gothenburg, Sweden on March 20th.
Volvo has also been working to improve the safety of their self-driving vehicles. Last year a Uber self-driving Volvo killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona. The vehicle’s sensors did not detect the pedestrian and the driver was streaming a television show on their smartphone at the time of the crash. Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation kicked the vehicles off the road and just recently authorized Uber to restart the program. The vehicles now include two safety drivers and they cannot exceed 25 mph.
It is unclear whether Volvo’s “gaps toward zero” campaign will truly be able to reduce the number of traffic fatalities. According to the United States NHSTA, 49% of drivers in fatal accidents were not wearing seat belt. Many of these accidents occur below 70 mph. Would a speed limit of 112 mph necessarily resolve this issue?
Their campaign also raises a few ethical questions. Should a company be able to control a human being’s actions, even if the company’s policies are in the best interest of the consumer? State and local laws certainly impose safety restrictions on drivers, but should a company have this right too? Other vehicles also have speed limits, but should these exist? At the moment, Volvo believes that they do have some sort of obligation.